‘The Stand’: Ben Affleck on the Difficulties of Adapting Stephen King’s Book

Published 2 years ago by , Updated February 15th, 2014 at 4:30 pm,

The task of turning Stephen King’s The Stand into a feature-length movie has long been viewed as a difficult one at best (a near-insurmountable challenge at worst), for one simple reason: the original book – which varies from 800-1100 pages long, depending on the edition – is divided into three segments which could each suffice as an individual film on its own (amusingly, it’s the opposite of the dilemma facing Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, where one book is stretched over three films).

Ben Affleck was recruited by Warner Bros. a year ago to help screenwriter David Kajganich (Blood Creek) condense King’s tome into a manageable size, with the plan for Affleck to direct. The Oscar-winner has since been linked to other projects – and with good reason, given the (lack of) progress being made on The Stand.

For the uninitiated, King’s novel is composed of three sections. The first (“Captain Trips”) details the collapse of our civilization as the result of a human-engineered super flu; the second (“On the Border”) picks up in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where the few survivors rally around two spiritual leaders (one for good, the other evil); the third segment (“The Stand”) chronicles the final confrontation between the dual human camps, in a battle that will determine the future of our world.

Here is what Affleck had to offer GQ about adapting all three portions of The Stand:

“Right now we’re having a very hard time,” he says. “But I like the idea—it’s like The Lord of the Rings in America. And it’s about how we would reinvent ourselves as a society. If we started all over again, what would we do?”

Affleck is riding high on the success of his true story-based historical drama/thriller Argo, which has improved on both the critical reception and financial returns from his previous directorial efforts (Gone Baby Gone and The Town). However, King’s horror/sci-fi/apocalypse epic is another monster altogether – one that’s worlds apart from Affleck’s past adaptations – which makes it all the more understandable that the actor/filmmaker and Kajganich are struggling to make progress on The Stand.

Box Office Oct 14 Argo The Stand: Ben Affleck on the Difficulties of Adapting Stephen Kings Book

Ben Affleck in ‘Argo’

Reports emerged last month that Affleck is considering an adaptation of Live By Night, which would be based on the novel by Dennis Lehane (author of Gone Baby Gone). Indeed, it might be best that Affleck divert his attention to other projects for a while, since the process of streamlining The Stand is proving so difficult. That way, he can continue sharpening and improving his skills as a filmmaker, in order to be better prepared to realize King’s story on the big screen (once the script has been properly finished, that is).

Are you interested in a film version of The Stand, with Affleck behind the wheel? Or do you feel the only way to do the novel justice is to extend it out into a full-blown trilogy (one which infuses the story with a blockbuster sensibility that was lacking in the well-known 1994 TV mini-series adaptation)?

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Source: GQ [via Cinema Blend]

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  1. Attempting to do this in one film would make the job even that much harder, and makes little sense. Like the article said they are stretching the Hobbit to three movies (even though Jackson earned the right to try whatever he wants with the property considering his success with LOTR), and they somehow manage to stretch out those Twilight and Hunger Games films. So how they think an 800-1100 page book with multiple characters can be jammed into one 2-3 hour film seems crazy.

    The original mini-series tried to do the story justice, and considering the task they had it was not bad. For me the problem was the way they decided to portray the ending. That whole hand detonating the bomb was just, eh……

  2. Would like to see the stand as a movie. Up to the producers and King to decide the length. I don’t like his films when little attention is given to development of character and much is devoted to the action or violence. The Stand is my favorite I feel this is King’s “magnum opus”. I want it to be perfect or forget it. That being said, I would go see it however it is presented, I am that partial to that story.

  3. I think it’s worth a try….

  4. It’s a shame that people are considering Affleck for this project. Of course he is having trouble with this! I mean, I was shocked that he could read at all, and was very pleased to hear that he’s moved onto other projects to “sharpen his skills”. It would be a shame if people’s first exposure to this story would be a movie by this guy.

    I’m guessing that this comment will be flagged (or Randall “Flagged”, har har har) for moderation due to “personal attacks”, but Mr. Affleck is barely a person, so who knows? If I had kept my frustration inter, there was a good chance some of my internal organs would explode. Probably my bile duct.

    • hey bile duct, try watching some of his movies first instead of spewin your uninformed bile over here, then make the conclusion.. kk ?

    • Have you been living under a rock? Over the last 5 years, Ben Affleck directed three terrific films which are among my favorites: “Gone Baby Gone,” “The Town,” and “Argo.” I was thrilled to learn that he will helm Stephen King’s masterpiece because he has shown incredible maturity as a director and respect for the material he has adapted.

    • Yea, because Gone Baby Gone, The Town, and Argo are all terrible movies that received absolutely zero nominations. Oh wait, yes they did. All of them were nominated for some form of Oscar, but you’re right, he can’t even read, let alone direct a movie people respect.

  5. I really liked The Town and his directorial work previous to that so look forward to whatever Ben Affleck does next. At the moment it seems like he’s looking for that next project and every hint or rumour as to what that might be is slightly stalled in development hell… If The Stand makes it to the cinema Its something I would like to see.

  6. I mean, it’s pretty widely accepted that “The Stand” is one of King’s best works. I think it would be a disservice not to realize it fully with a trilogy. Ben Affleck is a competent director (I’m not a HUGE fan of him, but he certainly doesn’t suck), but if he’s trying to condense this book into a single film, I’m hard-pressed to believe that the story can be truly fleshed out (no pun intended).

  7. The stand is anovel thats so good it doesnt need a movie. The way its written, your much better off using your imagination. Anyway not enough people read books anymore…the only benefit a movie can have is that it may encourage people to read the books. The same could be said about the dark tower novels.

    • No novel needs a movie. Film is an entirely different medium. It’s purpose is to entertain, among other things, and The Stand (if done correctly) would be an incredibly entertaining film. Most of the worlds great films are adaptations of something else, and to say a novel is so good it needs no adaptation is a biased and utterly ridiculous statement. If that were the case we’d have no Godfather, no Psycho, no Apocalypse Now, no Cuckoo’s Nest; not to mention practically all the works of the great John Huston…
      And yes, I believe an adaptation of The Stand would draw more people to the works of Stephen King, so either way it’s a win-win.

    • You’re the first person who makes this remark. Everyone else is so determined to see a Stand cinema movie that they do not want to comprehend its biggest obstacle: it’s complexity in characters, next to a disaster situation that needs just as much scope. With 2-3 hours, the richness of the novel will suffer horribly, and all that will be left is people running around derailed America on speed, the refinery fireworks in Bruce Willis mode and the demise of Las Vegas. It will be like looking at a trailer.
      The tv series came out reasonably well because it had time to deal with the novel’s many issues. Most of the actors fitted my idea of the characters so well, that I’ll dislike anyone who steps into Jamie Sheridan’s shoes, he was the most convincible Walking Dude imaginable because he was handsome and suave in a bad-guy way and had an air of fashionable popcult with a whiff of kitsch over him. That grin! His casting was a stroke of genius.
      All King fans will be better off if the 1990s series remain the first and the last filmization. Reading the book gives me the idea that I’m watching the novel anyway, it’s mood and visionary is so strong.

  8. It’s impossible to make just 1 movie out of this story. It needs to be a trilogy, period. Caracter developement is simply too complex.

  9. I like choice in Affleck for directing. But this needs to be (at least) a trilogy. One picture would be like ripping the heart out of it all together. What made the book so phenomenal was the characters and their back stories. The final confrontation was almost a little anticlimactic. But the character development was so intriguing and intricate. It cannot be imitated in a single movie.

  10. This is a very ambitious project. The book is great, but VERY long…there is lots of back story which in many ways is the meat of the book. It really needs to be 3 films. It is written this way. Casting is going to be tough too…The soundstages and locations are going to be expensive.

    The TV mini-series gets an A for effort.

    • S.King wrote the screenplay for the mini series and also appeared in the movie, maybe Ben should visit Stephen ,get his opinion…

  11. I am a long time fan of S.King and “The Stand” .There is so much there that is relavent to the story line. the movie would really need to be done in three parts to do it justice. I really hope the decision will be made to do just that….

  12. Trilogy! Only way it works. The book is a masterpiece and deserves an equal movie adaptation. Cramming it all into a single film is an injustice im my eyes. The 1994 TV series didnt even cover all parts of the book but was still quite long. I hope this actually makes it onto the big screen and I’ll be first in line to go see it.

  13. I am just fine with the tv movie that was made years ago.

  14. The best way to do the book justice is as a tv series. Toreally make the hand of god understood you have to add in all the paranormal stuff leo rockway, namely, tom cullen describing the walking dude while hypnotized. Get king on board as creative consultant and let the thing go wild just like th book was.

  15. Considering the apparent desperation in finding source material for movies these days (Ant-man? Not to mention all the reboots and way-too-late/completely unnecessary sequels being churned out), at least they are taking a crack at some truly fantastic literature. Ironically, I began reading The Stand my senior year of high school to mess with my English teacher, who had been on my case about not reading during the allocated time during class. We went to the library as a class, and I pulled The Stand specifically because it was so huge and I could facetiously tell my teacher, “Here, I found a book to read!”

    Long story short, I was then entranced for the final two months of high school, and read the book as much as I possibly could. I have vivid memories of the story, characters, and feelings the novel invoked in me. The Stand is an incredibly poignant perspective on how drastically our culture would be reshaped were it to suddenly be turned upside-down and forced to rebuild.

    Anyway, with works of art like this, I don’t hold the reservations of a film adaptation potentially “embarrassing the original work” or whatever it is people cite often. Nothing will degrade what Stephen King wrote. I like that they seem to be intellectually invested to some extent (aka it’s progressing slowly AS IT SHOULD, given its depth). So they’ll take a crack at it, and it might be good, it might be crap, but it’s worth a try, and at least it will introduce/inspire some people to read the actual novel.

    How can we discourage artistic endeavors like this while Kevin Hart and Adam Sandler (lately) are churning out horrific movies and they are making sequels to movies that are 20+ years old? Terrible.

  16. Would be a perfect HBO series

  17. I definitely think it should be a trilogy . I really liked all the movies Ben Affleck directed but this is an epic, who knows. I do like the idea to cast Casey Affleck as Larry Underwood.

  18. With the exception of the ending of “The Mist,” Frank Darabont (pretty arrogant Frank),has done the best cinematic interpretations of King’s work. To even consider condensing The Stand into a single 2-3 hour movie is simply ridiculous. Even a trilogy would be so compressing it would lose so much structure that I doubt it would be worth a King fan’s time to watch it. An HBO series would be the best venue. Also to cast this movie with big stars would be an injustice to the novel and ruin the impact of the whole experience for me. (I hated Molly Ringwald as Frannie…) I think the gentleman who plays “Rick” from the AMC series The Walking Dead would make a wonderful Stu Redman. But, these are just my opinions.

    • King himself admits that Darabonts ending to The Mist is better then his own for the novella:

      From CinemaBlend.com:

      One person who loves the new ending is Stephen King. That’s right, he couldn’t be happier with Darabont’s new finish to his tale of terror. At a press conference today to promote the film, King talked about Darabont’s take, and had nothing but superlatives to say about it. He says: “Frank wrote a new ending that I loved. It is the most shocking ending ever and there should be a law passed stating that anybody who reveals the last 5 minutes of this film should be hung from their neck until dead.”

      I do agree that this should be a Mini-Series handled by HBO, AMC or FX in other words a channel that has proven itself in the Horror Genre (HBO:True Blood (Ok TB became more Soap then Horror but they do have a proven track record with high quality shows like Game of Thrones, True Detective, The Newsroom & Dead Like Me. AMC obviouly The Walking Dead being one of their biggest shows. FX with American Horror Story, The Guillermo del Toro created The Strain and Sons Of Anarchy)

      Disagree with you on Molly Ringwald as Franny every time I watch The Stand and the scene where her and her father are listing to The Rae Flowers Show and Rae(Kathy Bates) is taken down by the Military, when they cut bacck to Molly’s reaction I always get a little choked…

      Ya Andrew Lincoln the actor that plays Rick Grimes On The Walkind Dead would make a great Stu!!

  19. Should be a trilogy and they should get a more interesting director than Ben Affleck.

  20. M O O N, that spells just watch the miniseries and write something original.

  21. Would love to see it on film…longer/trilogy would probably best adapt the story into a film.